“I have forced myself to begin writing when I’ve been utterly exhausted, when I’ve felt my soul as thin as a playing card . . . and somehow the activity of writing changes everything.” ~ Joyce Carol Oates

From The Cycle “Windows of My Studio,” Joseph Sudek (1954)

                   

“I have always spent most of my time staring out the window, noting what is there, daydreaming or brooding. Most of the so-called imaginative life is encompassed by these three activities that blend so seamlessly together, not unlike reading the dictionary . . .” ~ Joyce Carol Oates

Thursday afternoon. Clear and cold.

Steps in Snow, New York City, by Merg Ross (1964)

To say that this week has been unproductive would be the height of understatement. The headache from hell continues to march on within my skull relentlessly. I saw my headache doctor on Monday, and he finally admitted that he can do nothing for me. Next step, a referral to a neurologist. Meanwhile, I am on a series of steroids (hooray, not) and all of the attendant side-effects: bloating, water retention, increased appetite, and my personal favorite: headaches.

I decided to try to post today for two reasons: It’s been over almost a week since I last posted, and when I sat down to begin, the pain had subsided a bit, as it always does—here and then gone, assault and then retreat—much like the incoming and outgoing tides. I have no control over when the next onslaught will come; none of my pain medications are working, alone or in combination; and this particular battle is leaving me weak and mostly bed-ridden.

A situation I truly abhor. Of course, whenever I am phsically incapacitated like this, my thoughts always turn to the Social Security judge who said that my pain was not beyond normal parameters, and that I could hold down one of my former positions, say sales manager or marketing director. That man holds a very special place in my heart.

I was able to read a book on Tuesday as the pain was mostly dull, and reading did not seem to exacerbate anything, but sitting in front of the computer screen is still not the best situation, and since I am my own worst enemy, I got up from the computer this afternoon after only a few minutes to take care of a few things around the house, like the dishes and laundry. I wanted to take advantage of the lull. Of course this means that now that I am back at the keyboard, the tide is coming in once again, and rather quickly, too, I might add.

“When Heraclitus said that everything passes steadily along, he was not inciting us to make the best of the moment, an idea unseemly to his placid mind, but to pay attention to the pace of things. Each has its own rhythm: the nap of a dog, the procession of the equinoxes, the dances of Lydia, the majestically slow beat of the drums at Dodona, the swift runners at Olympia.” ~ Guy Davenport, The Geography of the Imagination: Forty Essays 

Chairs with Leaves, Luxembourg Gardens, Paris, by Ilse Bing (1952)

Eamonn stopped by for one of his 15-minute visits this afternoon, and he brought his friend Sean with him. Sean enlisted in the Army right after high school graduation, and he is due to go back to Iraq in the spring.  Fortunately, he does not have a combat position. He told me that he has been asked to go out on missions, but he has the option to decline, and he has chosen to take that option; however, he says that the other people call him a girl, and various other military slurs for coward. (I did not comment on the whole sexism thing as I just wasn’t up to it.)

I told Sean that there is nothing wrong with wanting to stay out of combat. His current position is a very necessary one, and he is serving his country in his own way. Actually, I was a bit surprised that he enlisted in the first place; in the past, he has displayed a terrible temper (he and Eamonn got into a fist-fight in middle school, and both were suspended) and lack of self-control, but the military seems to have helped him. Having said that, I am awfully glad that Eamonn did not enlist with him.

Truthfully, who among us would want a son or daughter in the army at this very precarious time in our country’s history? I’m just not that person, not when it comes to my kids. Oddly enough though, I once thought of joining the military and said quite boastfully to my friends that I would willingly go into combat if I had to, and I think that I really meant it—at the time.

When you think about it, isn’t it kind of amazing how many vastly different people we are during a lifetime? A would-be warrior here, a want-to-be politician there . . . and then looking back, thinking how odd life would have been if we had walked that path.

“Illusions are important. What you foresee or what you remember can be as important as what really happens.” ~ Javier Marias

House in Demolition by Petr Helbich (1985)

I’m not ready to write about last Saturday yet. It’s a subject that is fraught with emotion, and I know that I am not able to deal with all of the thoughts that are around inside my brain regarding yet another senseless American tragedy and what it means to me, to this country, to both sides of the ongoing fray.

Perhaps tomorrow. We’ll see.

Brett went back to ODU this past Monday, and I don’t think that winter break could have ended soon enough for him. I was starting to notice a definite downswing in his overall mood, and I am fairly certain that it was caused in part because he found himself at loose ends without classes and the company of his friends. 

On other fronts, I went a few days without calling my mother because of my own maladies, which means that when I did call her I got the expected “I could have been dead over here” complaint. I knew that it was only a matter of time before she returned fully to form once I moved back home. All of the kindness and intimacy that passed between us during those months in which I took care of her have already been put on the back burner, only to be replaced by the same old refrains.

I wish that I could say that I am surprised, but I am so not. I was, however, surprised by my mother’s response to my offer to drive her to Roanoke to see her sister whose condition is worsening quickly. My mother wanted none of it as it would upset her too much. I suppose I should have remember her reaction to her older sister’s death a few years ago: My mother wouldn’t even attend the funeral as it would be too upsetting . . . for her.

She has declared that she will never go to another funeral. Her assertion bothers me, although I am not exactly certain as to why it would or should.

“What is to give light must endure burning.” ~ Victor Frankel

Sunset on Lake, by Fausto Mirandoli (Pixdaus)

I suppose that that’s her prerogative  (Bobby Brown totally ruined that word for me) choice, so I should respect it, but it rankles me for lots of reasons: Funerals, obviously, are for those left behind; the dearly departed participate only corporeally. Usually, those attending are family and friends, perhaps coworkers, all of whom are brought together for their own various reasons: grief, love, fear, loneliness, guilt, and occasionally (but, it is to be hoped, rarely) joy.

I don’t know much about funeral customs in other religions and cultures, but the oddly termed post-funeral reception that I have attended many times is probably the most honest part of the entire process. At the service, the deceased is remembered, sometimes lauded. At the reception, after a few glasses of whatever, the stories begin to be told, and those who did not know the deceased quite as well as others get an earful.

They hear about exploits better forgotten, family events at which the departed individual acted particularly rude or obnoxious or funny, and sometimes, little tidbits from the workplace are revealed, tidbits that no one in the family had heard about before this gathering. Truth is part of grief in an odd but integral way, and I think that that’s the part with which my mother is most uncomfortable: the moments in which truth comes out and is bandied about like some kind of Jello salad with miniature marshmallows making its way from person to person: Not everyone necessarily wants it, but most will sample it to be polite, and a few will secretly enjoy it. My mother, on the other hand, refuses to partake.

Hell, what do I know . . .

“Imagine if all the tumult of the body were to quiet down, along with our busy thoughts.
Imagine if all things that are perishable grew still.” ~ St. Augustine 

Village, by Hajrudin Murselovic (Pixdaus)

I’m sorry that this post is so disjointed; it seems to be going all over the place without any clear focus, which is probably exactly what is really happening (and not just imagined) as that is exactly how my mind feels. Example: I walked from the bedroom to the dining room to do something. I stood there for a few minutes trying to remember what I had come to do. I walked back to the bedroom. Several hours later I remembered that I had gone to the dining room to get a piece of chocolate.

Okay. I probably/definitely did not need the chocolate because of a) the migraine, and b) the calories. But how discouraging . . . to decide that a piece of chocolate would be nice only to forget immediately after taking a few steps only to remember once the desire was no longer there.

It’s especially frustrating for the dogs who jump off the bed to follow me to the kitchen in the hopes of getting something, anything for their efforts only to be thwarted by my abysmal lack of linear thought.

More sooner rather than later (I hope). Peace.

Music by Natalie Walker, “By and By”

                   

Lines for Winter
for Ros Krauss

Tell yourself
as it gets cold and gray falls from the air
that you will go on
walking, hearing
the same tune no matter where
you find yourself—
inside the dome of dark
or under the cracking white
of the moon’s gaze in a valley of snow.
Tonight as it gets cold
tell yourself
what you know which is nothing
but the tune your bones play
as you keep going. And you will be able
for once to lie down under the small fire
of winter stars.
And if it happens that you cannot
go on or turn back
and you find yourself
where you will be at the end,
tell yourself
in that final flowing of cold through your limbs
that you love what you are.

~ Mark Strand

“All is flux; nothing stays still.” ~ Heraclitus

True Pathway of Life by Feathered Tary (Flckr Creative Commons)

                      

“Sometimes in life, from out of a myriad of prosaic decisions like what to eat and where to sleep and how to dress, a true crossroads is revealed. In these moments, when the fog of relative irrelevancy lifts and fate rolls out a demand for free will, there is only left or right”. ~ J. R. Ward
The Bamboo Forest by Trey Ratliff (http://www.stuckincustoms.com/)

My hearing with Social Security is coming up on September 16, and I believe that I am beginning to panic. After all, that hearing is going to be a live-altering event.  I mean, if SS determines that yes, I am in fact disabled, then I go on their roster of disabled people. It makes it official—government official.  

The fear of being officially classified as a nonfunctioning member of society is causing me to look at the job listings with George Washington. This isn’t the first time I’ve done this, wandering aimlessly through job listings, thinking about what I could do.  

But time for total truth: Would I be able to do it—it being return to the job force full-time, rejoin the lot of functioning, productive members of society?I honestly don’t know, and probably wouldn’t know until I tried. But the catch 22, the big iron in the works, so to speak, is that if I tried and found that I couldn’t do it, then what? Start the entire process again? Would that even be a possibility?  

Hence, my panic. I remember my mother used to repeat a phrase when she was perplexed: “What to do? What to do?” Exactly. Précisément.  

One day Alice came to a fork in the road and saw a Cheshire cat in a tree. “Which road do I take?” she asked. “Where do you want to go?” was his response. “I don’t know,” Alice answered. “Then,” said the cat, “it doesn’t matter.” ~ Lewis Carroll
Doorways Neuville: Number One or Number Two?

A person could go mad in the face of such a conundrum: choose to act, and the possible failure has innumerable ramifications, but choose not to act, and the acquiescence may lead to the ultimate loss of self.  

Search your soul . . . Let your conscience be your guide . . . In the end, you’ll do what’s right . . .  

Really? Seriously? Being in this position make me realize acutely why some people consult psychics, have their palms read, have a Tarot card reading: Just tell me what’s going to come, and I’ll know what decision to make.  

Sorry, but no. Back to that whole free will concept: Each individual possesses the ability to control his or her fate by choosing a course of action from among alternatives; whether or not free will is connected to moral responsibility depends upon the individual. That being said, the concept of free will implies being responsible for one’s actions as a result of being accorded the freedom to choose.. However, as most philosophers point out, the concept of free will is illusory in that whether or not the individual succeeds in carrying out actions decided upon depends on a number of factors beyond that individual’s control.  

Or at least, that’s how I perceive it to be.  

“Although every man believes that his decisions and resolutions involve the most multifarious factors, in reality they are mere oscillation between flight and longing.” ~ Herman Broch
Stair Pathways on Hillsides of Valparaiso, Chile

The sticking point for me, then, is that if I do what I most want to do, that is, try to go back to work, possibly work on another degree, then I am subjecting my family to risk. That and the fact that I decide, but many factors out there loom beyond my control.  

The positives of trying to go back to work: 

  • Improved self-worth from feeling as if I am doing something productive
  • Increased family income, thereby helping to move us out of this never-ending miasma
  • Having health insurance paid for by the company instead of self-paying
  • Depending more on myself to get things done
  • Possibly feeling better when my mind has other things on which to dwell

The negatives of trying to go back to work:  

  • Working again and finding out that my body cannot tolerate the activity
  • Not being around full-time for Brett while he is beginning college, or being available to my family on a full-time basis
  • The costs involved in going back to work: purchasing another vehicle, travel, wardrobe
  • Having to go out on disability again and possibly not being able to get coverage
  • Having to pay back debts that were forgiven when I went on disability

I did not put having time to write on either of these lists as my experience in the past few years has shown me that I will write whether or not I have the time depending on my need to say something. In all of the time that I have been out on disability, I still have not put together my book, which is what I said that I would do. That in itself is telling.  

“The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.” ~ M. Scott Peck
 Pathway bridge in Saharna Moldova, by Guttorm Flatabo

                      

As some of you may realize, I write my way through, the logic being that as I put the words to page, my mind processes and sifts, allowing me to arrive at some kind of logical conclusion, and if not a conclusion, then at least a moment to pause. Having written about decisions countless times, I can say that at this moment, I am not more certain as to what I should do than when I began this post.  

No great truth has come to me. At least, I don’t believe that it has. I heard a homily or proverb one time that went something like this: If you toss a coin in the air to help you make a decision, pause as the coin is in the air to reveal to yourself which outcome you were hoping for. Kind of like truth in a fortune cookie.  

I know what I want to do, but so many things make me afraid to take this route, not the least of which is how much pain I am in from concentrating so hard on getting these words out.  

Best five out of six . . . any words of wisdom would be appreciated.  

“There are no prescriptive solutions, no grand designs for grand problems. Life’s solutions lie in the minute particulars involving more and more individual people daring to create their own life and art, daring to listen to the voice within their deepest, original nature, and deeper still, the voice within the earth.”
~ Stephen Nachmanovitch 

More later. Peace.  

Music by Dryer, “Seen Enough”